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Harrison v. Deboard

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 3, 2015

CARL F. HARRISON, Plaintiff,
D. DeBOARD, et al., Defendants.


CAROLYN K. DELANEY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

This pro se prisoner civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 proceeds on the complaint filed July 31, 2013 against defendants DeBoard and Lopez.[1] (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff claims that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety when they failed to protect him from other inmates, thus violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Before the court is defendants' April 25, 2014 motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 84.) Plaintiff has filed an opposition. (ECF No. 90.) Having carefully reviewed the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' motion be denied.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there "is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials..." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).

Summary judgment should be entered, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id.

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

III. Plaintiff's Allegations

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges as follows:

On the morning of March 12, 2009, three inmates returned from breakfast and came to plaintiff's cell, where they began loudly threatening and cursing at plaintiff as he stood in the cell doorway. (ECF No. 1 at 8.) They had been trying to intimidate plaintiff into smuggling drugs for them. (Id.) As the yelling and threats continued, plaintiff looked over at Correctional Officers DeBoard and Lopez, who were at their desk about 35 feet away. (Id.) Plaintiff saw that both were watching the inmates' verbal assault, which went on for at least two minutes, but did not stop it. (Id.)

One inmate hit plaintiff in the face, busting his lip, and hit plaintiff at least three more times in the jaw, nose, and eye. (Id.) Plaintiff fell down, and the three inmates punched and kicked him while he was on the ground. (Id. at 8-9.) This attack went on for approximately two minutes. (Id. at 9.) Afterward, the three inmates walked past DeBoard and Lopez, back to their cells. (Id.) DeBoard and Lopez laughed and gave each other a "high five" knuckle touch. (Id.)

Plaintiff went back to his cell, packed his property, and asked DeBoard to move him out of the building, but he refused. (Id.) Plaintiff waited until the next shift, then told non-defendant Correctional Officer Simpson about the attack. (Id.) Simpson moved plaintiff to a locked shower and reported the incident. (Id.) Plaintiff was ...

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